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Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Tito's thoughts, the a.m. edition

By Gordon Edes

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Terry Francona indulged in a little reminiscing about Nomar Garciaparra, but said he didn't plan to attend the morning press conference in which the former Red Sox star will sign a one-day minor league contract with the Sox, then announce his retirement.

"It's his day,'' Francona said, "but I look forward to seeing him.''

Francona's experience with Nomar bookends the beginning and end of Garciaparra's time with the Red Sox. Francona managed Garciaparra in the Arizona Fall League in 1994, after Garciaparra's first season with the Sox organization, and was managing the Sox when Nomar was traded in 2004.

"The time I had him in the Fall League was one of the highlights of my career,'' Francona said. "[In 2004,] I think he was kind of Boston'd out. It kind of wore on him for whatever reasons. Sometimes it's just time to move on.''

The biggest thing that caught Francona's eye in Fall League? "A 20-year-old kid personally passing out Christmas cards three weeks early. I hadn't even bought my family presents yet.

"He wasn't pulling the ball yet, everything was to right-center, but you could see it coming.''

Francona recalled a meeting he had with Kevin Kennedy, who was managing the Sox at the time, and Tim Johnson, one of his coaches, and being asked whether he thought Garciaparra could play second base.

"I said I don't know who you have at short, but whoever it is you might want to move him.''

In 1997, when Garciaparra made it to the big leagues, new manager Jimy Williams did just that, prompting a brief walkout from camp by John Valentin, who reluctantly gave up short and played second and third.

Francona, who was in his first season as manager with the Sox, said he didn't fully realize how iconic Garciaparra was in Boston until after the trading-deadline deal that sent Nomar to the Cubs.

"When it was over, I remember laughing with Theo (Epstein), 'I was behind you every step of the way, not in front of you.'''

Other Sox related news this a.m.:

* Daisuke Matsuzaka is throwing another bullpen session, and if all goes well is expected to throw against hitters in a BP session next go-round.

* Jason Varitek is back in camp but since he hasn't played since the college games last week will be given a couple of days at least before he's thrown back in game action.

* Still no decision on whether Mike Lowell plays in a game Saturday, his target date. Francona said he wants to clear it with the team's medical staff first.

* John Lackey to face Mets in Port St. Lucie Thursday, with Clay Buchholz going on Friday against Cardinals in Jupiter. Sox plan to rotate squads that will make the trip, but Francona and coaches will stay over. "That's one of those things the Red Sox do for us that I appreciate,'' Francona said. "One year they flew us over. They try to make it easy on us.''

* David Ortiz and J.D. Drew are not in the lineup, but that was always the plan, Francona said. He wanted to give them a couple of good workout days.